In my family, when food is placed before us, we jump on it like a pack of hungry wolves, without wasting time in social niceties like waiting for others to start. It is our way of showing that we love Mom’s cooking, even if it is tinda that we’ve been having three days in a row.
So, when thrown in an unfamiliar territory, I did what I did best. I pounced on what was served like my Mom hadn’t fed me for weeks, without bothering to wait for others to start.
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Old habits are like cockroaches and don’t die easily. Mine decided to haunt me for the rest of my life.
I got married to a man who is my polar opposite. A gentleman who has his hors d’oeuvres with fork and knife, while I prefer a hands down approach….Looks at me with horror when I try to lick the sauce off the knife and gives a pained smile when I drop chopsticks noisily on the floor. He also patiently waits for everyone at the dining table to start before he puts the first morsel in his mouth. The civilized world calls them table manners.
The first time my parents invited their brand new son-in-law, Maa cooked a feast that was enough to feed three ravenous generations. She had immense faith in my cooking abilities and wanted to make sure he didn’t complain of hunger for at least a month. Now before I proceed further with the story, I must acquaint you all with my Ma’s penchant for cardio during mealtimes. In her quest for hot and fresh, she keeps shuffling the dishes and asks anxiously if we have finished dish number 6, so that she can get dish numbers 7 to 10.
No, we are not spoilt brats and she is no doormat who has dedicated her life to servitude. It’s just that her love manifests in many ways and one of them is her concerted efforts at over-feeding us. Ironically, she doesn’t do much for our appetite when she insists we must finish the bhindi and the paneer because it had been lying in the refrigerator for five days.
She is at her hospitable best when we have guests and pretends not to hear them when they scream “no more, we are full” and happily ladles generous portions of fish curry and rice over their hand covering the plate.
Experience has taught me to raise my plate above my head, every time I see my Maa approaching with a ladle.
She was planning to impress her jamai (son-in-law) with the same tactics when she noticed much to her horror that he had yet to start his meal. She gingerly approached him and asked with her brows knit in concern – Is everything okay?
Of course, Maa, I am just waiting for you to join us.
Our “you’re kidding, right!” looks did little to deter goody two-shoes.
When I have cooked something (I have been doing a lot of that lately) I expect it to be finished in all its scalding glory. Funny thing is, when I serve my newest culinary delight with aplomb, the husband suddenly recollects a bunch of things that had to be done and disappears to the other room to send mails, fix faulty gadgets and save battered women in Afghanistan, while I gnash my teeth and wait for him to make an appearance. I try occupying myself by making a tower of sautéed carrots, attempt potato art, till I look at the crispy spinach wilting in the heat, the fragrant coriander drowning in the curry, the melting butter disappearing in the crevices of the rustic bread and can’t take it ANYMORE!
If I am the first to start, I am also the first one to finish. Yes, I am the Usain Bolt of eating. While others are carefully forking the peas inside their mouth, the fillet of chicken is sliding down my oesophagus, looking forward to a happy reunion with the veggies. Don’t expect me to behave like a Masterchef judge, savouring the hint of nutmeg and caressing the smooth velvety texture of the perfectly cooked leg of the chicken with my euphoric tongue! In fact my taste buds gave up on me long time back and have taken to satsang.
I eat fast, drink faster, ethanol or not. Not for me the snootiness of savouring the nose of the wine and elating at its finish. But hey, I still can tell a good wine from a bad one, my current favourite being an Australian pink that chases bystanders. Curiously, my cup will always have a little bit of tea or coffee at the bottom, waiting for deliverance. There must be a lot of hidden psychoanalytical messages there.
After years of accusatory glances, I have finally accepted that I’m too impatient to stand and stare and savour the moment. I am the rabbit in a hurry to reach the finishing line. When I do, I am ready to move on to the next task. My mind always has multiple tabs open and my thoughts keep flitting between them. Leisure maybe pleasure for many but for me it doesn’t work. On the contrary, it makes me dull.
Unlike Aesop’s hare, mine always reaches the finishing line. So what if it didn’t stop to smell the flowers, do a little dance under the shade of the tree and sing a song? But then there are times when the tortoise in me makes me stop in amazement and savour this miracle called life.